School still not built five years after Sodi contract

School still not built five years after Sodi contract

School still not built five years after Sodi contract

Tshidi Nyembe at Barcelona Primary School in Etwatwa, Benoni.

Tshidi Nyembe at Barcelona Primary School in Etwatwa, Benoni.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Five years after tenderprenuer Edwin Sodi’s company was appointed as a consultant and project manager to build a school in Gauteng, not a single classroom has been built.

The provincial department of infrastructure development says the project to build the Barcelona primary school in Etwatwa, Benoni, is at “procurement stage” while the community has held several protests over the years, burning prefab classrooms, demanding a school they’ve been promised since 1996.

Sodi has had a string of lucrative government contracts for years across the country which were terminated for poor performance, despite pocketing millions of rand.

Gauteng department of infrastructure development spokesperson Victor Moreriane said the scope of work for Sodi’s company Blackhead Consulting at Barcelona primary is project consultant and overall management of the project.

According to a 2020 response in the provincial legislature, the contract given to Sodi in July 2018 was R10.8m.

Sodi was paid R1.8m by 2020 and it is unclear how much he has received to date.

When Sowetan visited the school last week, there was an open space which is where the new school was meant to be constructed. There is no construction material on site just an open space.

The school governing body said it could not comment on Sunday, saying they would only speak on the matter on Monday.

Community member Tshidi Nyembe, 74, said their demands for a school have fallen on deaf ears.

“We have not had a decent school since 1996. In those days we only had two prefab classrooms and our learners would rotate using them.

“Some would come in between 8am and 1pm and others would come at 2pm until 5pm. We made a call for more classes which we got as years went by, along with the promise for a new school. I served as the SGB member until 2018 and I can tell you that to this day, I have not seen a single brick being laid,” said Nyembe.

“Promises were made that we would get a new school but none of those were fulfilled. We want the school as in yesterday. We have had to protest multiple times and still nothing has been done. What more do we have to do to get basics for our children?

“Last year again there was a promise that the school construction would start, but there has been nothing and we don’t know why. The school has about 1,300 learners and about 55 of these classes. The overcrowding in those classes is a nightmare and yet we expect teachers to produce the best results under those conditions.”

She claimed that after another protest late in 2022, they were showed building plans and the new site for the school.

“We’ve been struggling. [Principal David] Tukisi tried and we as parents try to give our children R1 or R2 to donate to the school  so that the principal can use the money to patch things up. The windows and doors break and Tukisi replaces them. Why does our government want to see things fall apart before they can build a school for us?”

The department said in March 2021 it cancelled four other contracts given to Sodi’s company but that no money was recouped from him.

Moreriane said the Barcelona contract was still active.

Ward councilor Masele Madihlaba said the only thing that has happened was the testing of the soil.

“I followed each process until they said it was suitable for building. But nothing has happened since. The last communication I had with the province was in May when I was asking them to please see to it that the school is a priority.”

He said the school is overcrowded and the buildings were often hot in summer and cold in winter.

Last week, the Tshwane municipality began a process of getting Sodi blacklisted by the National Treasury, after it failed to deliver on a contract to upgrade the Rooiwal water treatment plant.

The City of Tshwane last week gave Sodi’s two companies NJR Projects and Blackhead Consulting  as well as their partner CMS 14 days to respond to the intention to blacklist them.

The companies were in 2019 awarded a R292m tender by the city to upgrade its Rooiwaal wastewater treatment plant to improve the quality of water in the cholera-hit Hammaskraal area. The contract was terminated in May last year and criminal charges laid against the three companies. 

City manager Johann Mettler told Sowetan last week that he had launched a probe to find out why the letter he signed in October last year was never dispatched by the then CFO Umar Banda. 

Asked if Gauteng had made any efforts to blacklist Sodi’s companies, Moreriane said, “No. We terminated [his contract].” 

According to the response in the legislature in 2020, the province had awarded a total of 16 tenders to NJR Projects and Blackhead Consulting with a total value of R517m.

Only eight of the projects were completed while the rest were still in the planning phase or had their contracts terminated or put on hold after R25m of the budget was spent.

Last month, Sowetan revealed that Sodi was involved in the extension of a prison in Parys, Free State, but the contract was terminated due to poor performance.

Sodi’s company NJR Projects was awarded a R282m contract to upgrade and extend the 65-bed Parys correctional services building to a 240-bed facility.

His company was paid about R130m at the time. Its contract was terminated in February. Despite this, dozens of employees went for months without pay, leading to them downing tools.